Which MM, MI, or Hi output...Nagaoka 300/500, Clearaudio Maestro, Soundsmith Carmen

Which one has the most organic and natural tonal qualities. I’m looking for something with a minimum of 2.0 mv to play in to a Naim XS and Harbeths. As much as I’m intrigued by the idea of going vintage, I’m now looking for a currently produced cartridge. I’d like to stay between $600-$1,500. While spending $1,500 should buy better performance, there are some dark horses like the Nag 300 and Sumiko Amethyst, both of which seem to have ardent fans. I’m an MC guy, and this is my first foray in to the world of higher output carts.


The best high output cartridge I have ever used in my system is the Soundsmith Voice but it is above your budget. I think the best cartridge in your price range is the Goldring 1042 followed buy the Clearaudio. 

The Carmen is a new entry to my list of considerations. In reading a couple of reviews, it apparently has a warmer character. As good as the Goldring is supposed to be, the reviews and forum feedback do not portray it as being on the warmer side. Otherwise, I'm sure it's a very nice sounding cart. 

The Nag 500 holds a special place for me, because at least on my system, it sounds like I’ve wanted all my other carts to sound. It’s full, dynamic, musical with natural sounding detail, and a pretty amazing sound stage. How it plays with your system is always an unknown until you try it. I also have the SAE 1000LT HOMC that’s really nice, but the Nag is my go to cart, and will replace the stylus with another when it wears out....something I can’t do with an MC.